Since the Connecticut school shooting, calls have been mounting against Congress to do something about gun violence in this country. Peter Verniero, who served as the state’s Attorney General and as a justice on the New Jersey Supreme Court, is one of those speaking out in favor of a federal ban on assault weapons.
In an interview with NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider, Verniero said reasonable gun regulation and legitimate recreational gun use are not mutually exclusive, pointing to New Jersey’s example of banning assault weapons.
“We’ve had such a ban for many years,” said Verniero, who added that the New Jersey law is very specific about what it bans. “We have an actual list, it’s very specific in the statute and then there’s a catch-all phrase that anything that’s substantially identical to the list will be considered and we haven’t had any real problems with enforcement.”
When it comes to school safety, Verniero said gun control is just one part of a very complex issue.
“We really need to look at the broader issue of mental health and whether our buildings are physically secure,” he said. “No one answer will solve this issue but certainly gun control is part of it.”
In a recent NJ Today interview, Marlboro Mayor Jonathan Hornik defended his school district’s decision to post armed police officers in Marlboro’s nine public schools. While Verniero said that New Jersey schools are fairly safe, he doesn’t discount the idea of armed guards at schools.
“We have that now in North Hunterdon High School where my kids attend; there are armed guards at various school functions and so forth,” he said. “Whether we need it in every classroom — probably not — that’s probably excessive, but I agree with what the governor said. He said that we need a thoughtful approach to this whole issue and we have to look at all the different constituent parts of it.”
New approaches and more resources are needed to address mental health, said Verniero. “When we think of healthcare in this country, too often, we think of physical health,” said Verniero. “Roughly 25 percent of adult Americans have some form of mental disorder or mental health issue. That’s a staggering amount.”